Steph and I recently accompanied our good friend, the Ecclesiastical Advisor to the Napa Institute, Archbishop Paul Coakley, to the dedication of the Blessed Stanley Rother shrine in Oklahoma City. Executive Director John Meyer and Director of Advancement Ben O’Neill joined us from Napa Institute for this uplifting experience.
For years, Archbishop Coakley, his predecessor, and his team have worked to advance the cause of Blessed Stanley Rother, the first American martyr and diocesan priest to be called “Blessed.” He is just one miracle away from being fully canonized as a Saint.
Who is Blessed Stanley Rother? This is a very good question and one that I asked myself. He was a simple diocesan priest from the Diocese of Oklahoma City. While he struggled in the seminary to command ecclesiastical Latin, he was ultimately ordained a priest by Bishop Victor Reed on May 25, 1963. He served as an associate parish priest in various parishes around Oklahoma: Saint William in Durant, Saint Francis Xavier and the Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa, and Corpus Christi in Oklahoma City.
In 1968, at Blessed Stanley’s request, Bishop Reed assigned him to the diocese’s mission to the Tz’utujil people of Santiago Atitlán in the rural highlands of southwest Guatemala. As you know, Central and South America have been riddled with revolutions inspired by Marxism. During the 70s and 80s, Guatemala was an epicenter of this chaos. As a result, many priests and religious were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The revolutionaries put Fr. Stanley Rother’s name on their death list.
In early 1981, he returned home to visit his family. However, with the motto “the shepherd never leaves his sheep,” he returned before Triduum in 1981. Not long after, on July 28, 1981, he was assassinated in his rectory. He died because he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Over the years, people have pursued his cause, and on December 1, 2016, his beatification received approval from Pope Francis, who confirmed that Rother had been killed “in odium fidei” (“in hatred of the faith”). Rother was beatified on September 23, 2017, at the Cox Convention Center, with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the CCS, presiding on the pope’s behalf. The beatification Mass was attended by 20,000 people. Among the bishops who assisted Amato were Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, and Oklahoma City Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius J. Beltran, who initiated Rother’s cause in 2007.
I’m sure there have been many undocumented miracles. There are also many happy coincidences. For instance, Reno Bishop Daniel Henry Mueggenborg – a frequent Napa attendee – served Holy Mass as an altar boy for Fr. Stanley Rother. It inspired him to become a Catholic priest, and as a bishop, he is also a board member of the great apostolate Focus.
Who else was inspired by Fr. Stanley Rother? If you were, please let me know. Providentially, his second cousin, Fr. Don Wolf, whose father was the brother of Fr. Stanley Rother’s grandmother, has been appropriately appointed as the Rector. They shared a great picture of Fr. Rother’s laying on of holy hands during his ordination in Oklahoma City.
Fr. Rother also has a sister, who is a nun, and two other siblings who attended the dedication of the Shrine on February 17, 2023.
Bishops, priests, and religious came in thousands to participate in the three-hour liturgy of consecrating a shrine designated in the local diocese. After five years, an application can be made to the United States Conference of Bishops to establish it as a National Shrine.
I am confident the Shrine will be immensely popular. To attract many more followers, they built a replica of Tepeyac with our Lady of Guadalupe, a mountain formed from the soil 52-acre golf course used to build the Shrine. Peter L. de Keratry, Executive Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese, said, “We anticipate more pilgrims will be attracted to the Our Lady of Guadalupe and the replica to Tepeyac and thereby be introduced to the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine.
I hope you will mark this shrine as a place to go in the coming years and visit the wonderful town of Oklahoma City, which is only a 30-minute flight from Dallas.
Blessed Stanley Rother’s feast day is July 28, so we will celebrate a Holy Mass on that day during this year’s Napa Institute Conference.
Congratulations to Archbishop Coakley, Peter L. de Keratry, and all who participated in the creation of this wonderful shrine that memorializes this holy man.
Timothy R. Busch
Founder of the Napa Institute
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